Friday, March 03, 2006


Israeli/Palestinian Conflict Returns to Oscars

On Sunday night, it may be 1978 all over again at the Academy Awards. In what could shape up to be the most controversial moment of this year's Oscar ceremonies, Paradise Now -- the Oscar-nominated Foreign Film which explores Palestinian life and violence under Israeli occupation -- is facing protest from a group of Israeli families who have lost children in Palestinian suicide bombings. These families, armed with a petition of 32,000 signatures, are urging the Motion Picture Academy to disqualify the film from competition. With just two days to go before the ceremony, there is no indication that the Academy has any intention of complying. If Paradise Now (which was already named Best Foreign Language Film, in January, at the Golden Globe Awards) ends up winning the Oscar as well, it might spark the most controversial moment since pro-Palestinian activist and actress Vanessa Redgrave gave her now infamous speech at the 1978 ceremony in which she applauded Hollywood for not being "intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums," but was met by boo's from the audience, and was burned in effigy outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Her speech was also chastised moments later by the great screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, who responded, "Before I get on to the writing awards, there's a little matter I'd like to tidy up -- at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say ... that I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda. I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple 'thank you' would have sufficed." Adding more fuel to this year's fire is the Best Picture nominee Munich. In addressing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, this Steven Spielberg film does not draw clear lines of right or wrong either, and has also been met with protests. Best Picture front runner Brokeback Mountain and Best Picture nominee Capote, seemed to indicate that this year's ceremonies might focus on gay rights, but the age-old conflict in the Middle East seems poised to overtake it as the more controversial topic this year.

Filmmakers should be able to make any movie they want, and be eligible for an award if it merits it. I haven't seen Paradise Now yet, but I will, and then I will form an opinion as to whether it romaticizes suicide bombings. Even if it does, that shouldn't prevent the academy from allowing the film to compete.
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